Tunde Bakare, serving overseer of Citadel Global Community Church, formerly known as Latter Rain Assembly, has commended #EndSARS protesters for their “resilience”.
Young persons across the country had hit the streets to demand a reform of the police as a result of excesses, particularly by the special anti-robbery squad (SARS).
Following the protests, Mohammed Adamu, inspector-general of police, disbanded SARS while the federal government promised to accede to the demands of the protesters, appealing to them to leave the streets.
But the protests continued until armed men in army uniform opened fire on the protesters.
In a state-of-the-nation address on Sunday, Bakare said: “The Nigerian state has blood on its hands”.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that those who ordered armed soldiers to fire on innocent citizens are fished out and made to face the full weight of the law.
“In the past week, we witnessed with great sorrow the desecration of our nationhood as Nigeria’s armed forces stained the banner of our nationhood, the Nigerian flag, with the blood of our children, the Nigerian youth, to whom our founding fathers charged us to hand over a banner without stain,” he said.
“All across the nation, there is a wave of people movement. It is a wave of citizen engagement championed by the so-called ‘ordinary Nigerian’ who has proven in extraordinary terms to be by no means ordinary.
It began in Edo State with an awakened and resolute electorate defying the political establishment to make their voices heard and their votes count. In the past couple of weeks, that wave has been transformed into a tsunami of people movement led by our young people who have had enough of the horrendous brutality of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
I believe that this wave of people movement is the physical manifestation of the birth pangs heralding the New Nigeria.
“As I observed the End SARS protests, I could not but conclude that we are witnessing the crescendo of an era and the beginning of another.
Ten years ago, when we convened civil society organisations under the umbrella of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), our objective was not to be the voice of the people, but to restore the voices of the voiceless in a nation where social mobilisation had been frozen for too long at that time.
Ten years later, the End SARS protest has assured me that a generation of Nigerians has arisen, armed with clear and unmistakable voices, refusing to dim their lights or turn down the volume of their requests, because we have entered the era of ‘Soro Soke.’ I salute the courage of this unbreakable generation; I salute the resilience of every Nigerian youth, named and unnamed, who has stood up to be counted in this momentous era.
“No degree of brutal repression of protesters can quench the flame of protests in the hearts and minds of the Nigerian people. Your bullets may drive them off the streets, but your bullets cannot pierce their spirits or puncture their resilience.
“One can understand why the younger generation would so heavily indict preceding generations. At independence, we inherited a promising nation, but we are bequeathing a predatory nation to the young generation.
We inherited a nation whose structural foundations were built on principles of true federalism, a nation in which the diverse groups had the freedom to determine their destinies, but we are bequeathing a unitary nation, federal only in name, in which sub-national expressions are suppressed by an overbearing centre.
“We inherited a banner without stain, but we have introduced a new colour to our green-white-green: blood red.”
Bakare, who said the country needs leaders who listen to the people, condemned the violence that trailed the protests.
“We need sensitive leaders who are not ashamed to shed tears with the wounded and who can tell the broken, ‘Your pain is my pain, and I will do everything in my power to lift your burden,” he said.
On violence, he said: “Rather than destroy, we must build; rather than revel in attacks on tangible and intangible infrastructure, from buses and police stations to palaces and state-owned cyber assets, we must protect our common patrimony.
Instead of accepting a status quo that appears to leave us no choice but to go through the backdoor, we must build enduring edifices of open governance using such bricks as the Freedom of Information Act. Our conduct should at all times be moral, ethical and legal, moderated by the reality that there are no shortcuts in nation-building.”